Congrats on your ticket! VE1 land is pretty rare for activation so you’re going to become a popular person!
Those who have been most successful with a 2M FM exclusive activation are usually those activating within 100 miles of a heavily populated area and/or have per-arranged for local hams to be looking for them. In the midwest of the USA, where I activate, this isn’t usually possible.
Eric has a good suggestion on the FT-857 and I can tell you he puts on a bang’n signal with it. I use it’s little brother the FT-817 with a small solid state amp to run 20W. This combination is still lighter and MUCH more battery efficient than the FT-857. Battery efficiency is important to me as I often operate off grid for days at a time on canoe, backpack, and camping trips in addition to SOTA. For the same reason I still use the old style SLAB batteries because I can charge them directly from a small solar panel. For my style of operation this was a better choice than the FT-857, but it’s good and heavy.
Think of what you want to do now, and what you might like to do in the future and make a decision for your style of portable operation. Each activator has his/her good reasons for doing exactly what they choose to do, and one of the fun things about the hobby is experimenting to find what suits your needs best.
I hope you upgrade for HF privileges soon, and I’ll be looking for you when you do!